5 Ways To Approach Online Marketing Ethically

Today’s consumers are savvy. They can spot an unethical or manipulative marketing campaign a mile away and will be quick to expose any businesses that fail to take their ethical responsibility seriously.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to create online ethical marketing strategies that are inspirational successful.

Online marketing strategies that lean on white hat SEO, avoid manipulation, and promote diversity and inclusion will trend well online and leave a lasting impact on your customers.



Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

Having a clear search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is key to achieving your digital marketing goals. However, not all SEO is equal. Some approaches to SEO can be deemed unethical and may tank your brand reputation. These unethical approaches are called “Black Hat SEO”.

Black hat SEO is a spam-like approach to SEO that uses underhand tactics to game the SEO system. Black hat tactics usually include things like keyword stuffing, spamming links in comments, “link schemes”, and cloaking. All of these tactics attempt to boost your ranking on search engines without actually providing any worthwhile content to consumers.

White hat SEO strategies aim to improve your ranking on search engines without gaming the system. White hat strategies add genuine value to web users and typically revolves around a few best practices:

  • Content optimization;
  • Technical SEO;
  • Link building.

Each of these strategies makes it easier for web users to find relevant and useful content online. Strategies like white hat link building are particularly effective following Google’s recent updates, which made it easier for search engines to find a remove black hat scheme.

By utilizing white hat SEO, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your website won’t suddenly be removed from search engine listings. This makes white hat SEO a more secure investment, as changes to the algorithms won’t catch you out.

White hat SEO is also a more ethical approach to digital marketing. Users who encounter your white hat SEO are more likely to view your brand in a positive light; meaning you can build a digital presence that aligns with your overall brand vision.



Eco-friendly advertising is in vogue currently. Consumers are worried about their impact on the planet and want to do their part to help fight climate change. As a business, you can do your part to help consumers by avoiding greenwashing and being open about your impact on the environment.

Greenwashing occurs when businesses purport to be environmentally conscious while, in reality, they do little to support the environment. Some companies greenwash without even realizing it, meaning you have to be extremely careful anytime you use your branding to make claims about your environmental impact.

Instead of trumping up claims and hiding the reality of your operations, follow in the footsteps of brands like Crocs. Crocs uses its online marketing to talk about its environmental goals without hiding information from users. Crocs are clear that their shoes still require 2.56kg of CO2 per pair, but follow up their promises with actionable items like using recyclable packaging and saving shoes from landfills.

You can take the same approach to online marketing by dispelling greenwashing from your strategy and replacing it with accurate, honest reflections on your current environmental impact.



Misinformation is a major social issue that impacts us all. As a business, you need to ensure that you don’t add fuel to the flames of misinformation by utilizing well-sourced materials in your online marketing campaign.

When creating digital content, try to focus on finding sources that are credible (and peer-reviewed when possible). In an ideal world, every source you use would refer back to a high-quality study or research paper. If that isn’t possible, stick to outlets considered to be reputable sources of information.

Avoiding misinformation isn’t just an ethical directive. Consumers who spot misinformation will quickly turn to competitors who have earned their trust. No one likes to be lied to, so treat your consumers with the intellectual dignity they deserve.



Consumers around the world are increasingly interested in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the past decade, many major brands have joined the rallying call for great social justice and have expressed their interest through marketing materials.

But, before you roll out a campaign centred on DEI, you must back up any claims you make. For example, if you want to create online marketing materials to celebrate Pride month, you must make meaningful commitments to the LGBTQ+ community first.

This is something that major brands like Nike already do well. Nike’s BETRUE campaign foregrounds the athletic achievements of LGBTQ+ athletes and supports progressive organizations through grants and community organization events.

You can follow suit by putting the weight of your business behind a worthy cause before you roll out a major campaign. DEI should be seen as an opportunity to connect with a cause first and a marketing opportunity second.



Ethical marketing should be a key part of your overall marketing strategy. By engaging in white hat, truthful marketing, you ensure that your consumers find the information they need when they need it. This will save you SEO headaches in the future and ensure that your brand is trusted by consumers.


About Jori Hamilton

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer living in the Northwestern U.S. Her areas of expertise and topics she typically covers revolve around digital marketing, business productivity, and SEO best practices. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter: @HamiltonJori